What a way to start the season for the revamped 49ers.
Going up against one of the best signal-callers in the league, and in one of the NFL’s most storied home field advantages, the San Francisco 49ers walked into Lambeau Field much like the New York Giants did in last year’s divisional round – and walked out with an impressive victory.
It was a combination of what the 49ers did best – rugged, smash-mouth defense, combined with a tough running attack – sprinkled in with a little of the passing offense that was noticeably missing in last year’s NFC championship, that ultimately led to San Francisco’s first victory vs. Green Bay since 1998, and their first win at Lambeau Field in 22 years. It showed true in the stats – RB Frank Gore had one of his best days on the ground, with 113 yards and a TD. QB Alex Smith looked more like the man who beat Drew Brees in last year’s NFC Divisional playoff, with an impressive stat line: 20 of 26 passes completed, for 211 yards and 2 TDs. One of those TDs went to new 49er – and well-known Green Bay foil – Randy Moss, who caught his 154th career touchdown, passing Terrell Owens on the all-time list.
Packers signal-caller Aaron Rodgers – who was the personification of QB proficiency in 2011 (45 TDs, 6 INTs, 122.5 passer rating) – didn’t have the best of days. Despite his 302 yards passing, Rodgers was held down to 2 TDs, and was stifled by San Francisco’s pass rush for most of the day. Rodgers also threw an uncharacteristically bad INT to LB NaVorro Bowman that proved the pivotal play in preventing a significant comeback during the final minutes. Furthermore, the stingy 49ers run defense ensured Rodgers would be their best rusher that day, holding the Packers to a paltry total of 45 yards on the ground.
With the Packers already with as many regular season losses as last season, they are forced to have a quick turnaround, welcoming the 1-0 Chicago Bears to Lambeau, renewing a long-standing rivalry, on Thursday night. The 49ers, meanwhile, will renew a rivalry of their own – one, in particular, that started last season, between head coaches Jim Harbaugh and Jim Schwartz, in the infamous “Handshake” Game – against the Detroit Lions, at the Candlestick, on Sunday night.
- Everyone knew that last season’s offensive MVP may have been their kicker, David Akers, who accounted for a league-high 44 FGs. But who would have guessed, at the most exalted professional football field in the country, Akers would make history? His 63-yard field goal at the end of the first half not only extended the 49ers’ lead, but tied the NFL record for longest field goal made – the afterthought of a kick hit the bottom of the goal post and bounced over for the historic moment. It can also be considered a momentum changer: without it, the 49ers would have only had a one-score advantage going into the third quarter – less than daunting for an explosive offense like Green Bay.
- It’s also hard to ignore all of the bad calls, on both sides, that occurred during the game. While some helped the 49ers, others – like the blown call during WR Randall Cobb’s 75-yard kickoff-return TD – hurt their cause. It is hard to say who got the shorter end of the stick on the field, as it could be argued that the officiating was consistently average the entire contest. In general, however, it was the fans that got short-changed – many questioned the use of replacement referees ever since it was official that the NFL had not come to a labor agreement with the regular refereeing staff. Memo from NFL fans: COME TO AN AGREEMENT!
- I’m surprised how little the “Alex Smith vs. Aaron Rodgers” angle was relatively played in the media. After all, with the rise of the 49ers last year, under the direction of Smith, and Rodgers’ current dominance of the position, it would have been such an interesting thing to see – especially in the days leading up to one of the most anticipated matchups of Week 1. Smith and Rodgers’ careers diverged greatly after 2005 – Smith as the one-time pariah-turned-reluctant franchise QB, and Rodgers as the QB-in-waiting behind Brett Favre, evolving into the league’s best signal-caller. With both teams as good as they are, the quarterbacks should have been the first thing the media should have looked at.
- The aftermath has only begun to ring in the annals of the league, as illustrated by recent comments from Packers CB Jarrett Bush. Shortly after the game, Bush was quoted as saying that the 49ers didn’t beat them: they beat themselves. It’s humorous to think that the opponent had nothing to do with said opponent actually winning – in any case, it’s hard to look at this as anything other than sour grapes from a team that, while highly touted, have now lost their last two games, dating back to last season. It’s easy to understand that their pride is injured – but it’s no reason to take anything away from the opponent.